Reading: John 15:18-27
We have spent the last six weeks looking at the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. I hope we have discovered something new on that journey or maybe even rediscovered something long known but buried away somewhere in our memory banks that has resurfaced and challenged or comforted us afresh. I see this morning’s reading as one of those transition pieces, similar to that of a few weeks ago, when we looked at Jesus, ‘I am the gate’ and ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ readings.
Jesus has laid it all out there over the last few weeks. He has spoken to crowds of people. He has spoken directly to his disciples. He has spoken to and challenged the religious leaders of the day. Last week Jesus made it very clear that by remaining in his love we will find a joy that is complete. He made it clear that he will give his life for us, his friends. The last verse said, ‘This is my command: love each other’. From there we move into this morning’s opening verse, ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hates me first’. Surely there are no greater conflicts within the human nature than these two things, to love and to hate. And yet how often do we witness this on our journey through life? People meet and get to know one another, a relationship is formed and eventually they fall in love. One major falling out and almost in an instant people fall out of love and into hate. We see it in families where sibling rivalry goes beyond having a competitive edge and degenerates into families falling apart and once where there was love for kith and kin there is unabridged hatred and denial of blood connections as family members disown each other. Across society we see hatred such as Jesus describes.
People decide to hate one another. They choose elements of life and set these as parameters for hate.
Those who follow Jesus will be hated simply for following him. There is no need to find out something of the person who is a disciple there is that one requirement, they are a disciple, let hatred begin. The entire reading throws up some of the deepest held polar opposites in this world. The very fact that Jesus sets up his kingdom as having the opposite view to this world. Those who choose whichever one will be different and because of that difference the followers of Jesus will be hated, as he was hated. This brings a whole host of opposites; there is the question about good and evil, about truth and falsehood, about light and dark. The whole evocative master and servant relationship is addressed. Remember last week, ‘I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends.’ Now Jesus says, ‘no servant is greater than his master’ this coming from the one who is the servant king. He tells his disciples this treatment comes about because the world does not recognise him.
They do not recognise the one who sent him, therefor they hate the father also. Had Jesus not come among us and ministered to the people, had he not performed these miracles and healed the people, had he not spoken to them of the kingdom that was near and offered them the way of entry into it, then they could not be accused of rejecting the Son and the Father and now the disciples. It is here we come to that transition I mentioned earlier. On the surface the future all must have appeared quite dark and gloomy for the disciples being told that the future held persecution by and hatred from others within their own communities. Jesus tells them he will send the Counsellor, the comforter, the Holy Spirit. It will be for those who abide in the vine. This Counsellor will be the source of spiritual knowledge and strength to face what lies ahead. Through this comforter, sent by God the Father through God the Son will be the very source of joy and peace and love for those who remain in Christ. It will bring new birth into those who believe and it will dwell within them. God the Father is in heaven and has sent Jesus, God the Son, who will be returning there, but God the Holy Spirit will be with us forever, guiding and leading, teaching and empowering the people of God. We will pick up on the work of the Spirit next week when we move onto the next chapter of John’s Gospel and our journey through it.